A searing and revelatory account of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Highway 16, and an indictment of the society that failed them.
For decades, Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The highway is known as the Highway of Tears, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis.
Journalist Jessica McDiarmid investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate where Indigenous women and girls are over-policed, yet under-protected. Through interviews with those closest to the victims—mothers and fathers, siblings and friends—McDiarmid offers an intimate, first-hand account of their loss and relentless fight for justice. Examining the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settlers and Indigenous peoples in the region, McDiarmid links these cases to others across Canada—now estimated to number up to 4,000—contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in this country.
Highway of Tears is a powerful story about our ongoing failure to provide justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and a testament to their families and communities' unwavering determination to find it.
JESSICA McDIARMID is a Canadian journalist who has worked across North America and Africa. She has written for numerous publications and worked for Journalists for Human Rights. McDiarmid grew up along the Highway of Tears and currently lives in British Columbia. This is her first book.
**Finalist for the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize**
**Shortlisted for the 2020 BC and Yukon Book Prizes**
**A Hill Times' Best Book of 2019**
"This riveting exposé of the national scandal of Indigenous women and girls murdered on Highway 16 in northwestern British Columbia reads like crime fiction. But this is true crime, and many of the killers have not been brought to justice. McDiarmid's scrupulously documented account tells some of these women's stories and recounts the anguish of their damaged communities. Highway of Tears is a wake-up call for Canada. It challenges not only the police and the government, but all citizens to find a way forward through this legacy of racism, sexism and violence." —RBC Taylor Prize jury citation (Margaret Atwood, Coral Ann Howells and Peter Theroux)
"In this important book, Jessica McDiarmid offers a history of what she calls 'Canada's dirtiest secret" that is both methodical and moving, yet filled with a quiet determination for justice. . . . She writes poetically and lovingly of the region, while revealing the terrible losses concealed by its dark forests and lonely sections of road. . . . McDiarmid has done great service to both the victims and their families in telling the stories of these lives and the pain left behind by their loss—stories every Canadian should know and remember." —Winnipeg Free Press
"Urgent and eye-opening. . . . Its conclusions are uncomfortable at best, and damning at worst; it is easily one of the most essential works of nonfiction of the year. . . . Searingly necessary." —The Week
"Jessica McDiarmid, a journalist specializing in human rights stories, spent years digging into the lives and deaths of the [missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls of Highway 16] and, while she solved no crimes, she does bring the dead back to life long enough for us to see them as people instead of victims. McDiarmid has reconstructed lives impacted by poverty and addiction, discovered hopes and families torn apart and joined in healing events to restore the dead to their communities in this skillfully written and carefully researched book. . . . This isn’t a nice book with a tidy end but it is a bracing look at a national problem." —The Globe and Mail
"An extraordinary book." —Whoopi Goldberg, The View
"These murder cases expose systemic problems. . . . By examining each murder within the context of Indigenous identity and regional hardships, McDiarmid addresses these very issues, finding reasons to look for the deeper roots of each act of violence." —New York Times Book Review
"Canadian journalist McDiarmid debuts with a heart-wrenching account of the more than 1,200 indigenous women and girls who have gone missing or were found murdered along Highway 16. . . . This moving, well-sourced book is essential reading for anyone who cares about social injustice." —Publishers Weekly
"Meticulously researched and heartbreakingly readable, the book calls out the tragedy and travesty behind the crisis along the Highway of Tears." —Ms.
"Powerful. . . . Canadian journalist and first-time author McDiarmid, who grew up near the highway, traces in agonizing detail the lives and fates of several of those women, but the narrative is much more than just a list of tragedies. . . . A difficult but essential read." —Kirkus Reviews
"[Highway of Tears] shines a powerful light on an ongoing crisis. . . . McDiarmid's exposé of racism and the lack of justice for indigenous women should be required reading for all." —Library Journal
"McDiarmid's touching, poignant account intricately details the backgrounds of many of the victims, and their families and loved ones. She deftly explains the continuous circle of blatant racism, depression, hopelessness, poverty and addiction faced by the women, brought on by lack of opportunity and, frankly, by the lack of care from the government." —Booklist
"A searing account of how systemic racism robbed these victims of justice and continues to endanger Indigenous women and girls in Canada." —Paste Magazine